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Is the beard an endangered species?

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Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst has challenged the status quo and enraged Russians.

Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst has challenged the status quo and enraged Russians. Photo: AFP

Could we be living in the final days? The end of the line for a fashion that's seen men wandering about with one species or another of hairy facehugger clamped to their chins?

Conchita Wurst might have been the tipping point. The beardy cross-dresser with the golden tonsils certainly got tongues wagging with a song that had the Eurovision audience rapt but others predicting the Rapture.

Schick NZ wants men to equate facial hair to something verminous, and return to shaving.

Schick NZ wants men to equate facial hair to something verminous, and return to shaving.

Wurst, the Kenny Everett de nos jours, had some of the world's more rabid right wingers raving about “endless madness” and “spiritual decay” but other, more sober commentators have since pointed out that it wasn't the end of the world that was nigh, but that of the hipster beard.

You Tube is awash with videos of angry and confused apparatchiks who've debearded in protest at the supposed slight to Mother Russia of a man who can carry off both a dress and a beard, but their crazy antics may have inadvertently tapped into the zeitgeist – where the global hairiness craze could just be fading a touch.

And it's not just the nutters; a bunch of Australian academics recently added some rigour to the conversation.

Advertising proclaims the facehugger has turned feral.

Advertising proclaims the facehugger has turned feral.

UNSW's Professor Rob Brooks applied a phenomenon called “negative frequency dependence” to the current trend for beards and, in results published in the academic journal Biology Letters earlier this year, predicts an end to beard culture. Though he didn't say exactly when.

Professor Brooks writes: “Beards diminish in value when everyone is wearing them, [a fact that] suggests that the hipster beard, like the handlebar moustache, the mutton chop and countless other fashions before them, will, in time, pass."

One group that must be praying the tide changes sooner rather than later is the razor blade manufacturers. In its most recent financial results Procter & Gamble – the multinational behind Gillette – spoke ominously of “market contraction in developed regions” as more men stopped shaving most mornings.

Last year Gillette switched advertising agency – something it had never done before – in the hope of trying something new in the face of drooping demand.

And talking of advertising, faced with the same pressures on its bottom line, Gillette's razoring rival Schick has come up with a fantastic ad campaign that equates the hipster beard with having a furry animal setting up home on your face.

The campaign began in NZ where the possum – which seems to be the model for the beastie in question – is seen in many quarters as an evil, alien creature deserving of nothing better than eradication. Schick is no doubt hoping the beard goes the same way and the smooth-chinned status quo is restored. I just think they look cute.

But is it really all over for beards? Probably not just yet. Leading stylist Jack Morton (he recently won AHFA Colourist of the year for 2014) works at Toni and Guy Georges in the heart of hipster Melbourne, sports a beard himself and reckons they aren't going anywhere soon.

“Men are getting more and more adventurous with grooming,” Morton says. “They're getting more flamboyant and not afraid to do some styling to their facial hair – I'm seeing more handlebar moustaches, more beards that have been thought about rather than just appeared after a bit of not shaving.

“There'll always be a certain type of guy who goes against the trend, but generally we're going to be seeing more and more beards." And they'll be bigger and bushier too, Morton says, “like Ned Kelly's”.

“The beard's going to be around for a little bit longer yet.”

Is it curtains for beards? Or is there life in the furry beast yet?

63 comments

  • Spare a thought for those of us who had a beard before the hipsters arrived. First we're told we're just "following the trend" and now it seems we'll be informed we're back out of fashion or at least behind on fashion. The beard will stay. It wasn't fashionable when it first emerged so it shouldn't matter now that others might be about to take up their razors once more.

    Commenter
    Doc
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    June 10, 2014, 8:43AM
    • Yeah .....MY beard.....MY choice. I've had my beard for about 20 years. If anyone thinks that is a fashion statement, then you're sad sad individuals.

      Commenter
      Geoff
      Location
      Epping
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 9:44AM
    • I'm with you Doc. Had one for over 24 years. Not a leader or follower (or in the Navy).

      Even worse (in terms of whether it's a fashion statement or not), it's a goatee.

      Commenter
      Claypole
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 9:50AM
    • Pretty soon, people will go from referring to the hipster beard, back to where it all began - the maths teacher beard. Complete with beige short sleave shirt, brown tie, cream shorts and long socks. In winter, a brown vest can be worn.

      Commenter
      Public Joe
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 10:59AM
    • @ Public Joe

      Our science teachers all had pretty good beards. Including the men.

      Commenter
      Claypole
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 11:36AM
    • You can always tell who the hipsters are, though. They're the ones who don't look like you're daggy Uncle.

      Commenter
      Jace
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 11:36AM
    • As my grandmother once told me:

      The amount of hair on a man's face is indirectly proportional to the length of time his family has been out of the trees.

      Commenter
      Dingbat
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 11:42AM
    • Public Joe, I think you and I were in the same year 11 maths class!

      Commenter
      zeb
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 11:47AM
    • I'm only a freshbie, having had my beard for only 15 years. I suppose I'll have to shave it off when the hipsters move onto something else...

      Commenter
      Bearded
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 12:11PM
    • @Clay Pole. Thats not fair on the woman.......surely.....you must be mistaking their back hair brushed over for beards...

      Commenter
      Andrew
      Location
      Elwood
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 12:12PM

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